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The most bizarre Oxford rules and traditions

There is no clear date of when the University of Oxford was founded, but it's known that teaching existed there in some form as early as 1096, which makes it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. So it's not surprising that such an ancient institution with a rich cultural heritage has a fair share of fascinating and sometimes outright weird traditions and rules. Here are some of them:

Sometimes Oxford runs on its own time

Lucky Oxford students get to sleep 5 minutes more than their peers - the classes at Oxford start not at 9.00 am like in most universities, but 5 minutes past the hour. It hails back to the historical period when UK towns ran on their own, slightly varying times. Local Oxford time is historically 5 minutes later than Greenwich time. Another interesting fact: Oxford time inspired Lewis Carroll, who himself taught at Oxford, to create the perennially unpunctual White Rabbit in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Dining hall attire

Oxford has an odd rule of obliging students to wear formal attire and gowns on certain days and occasions when attending dining halls. These halls are called Formal Halls. In some Oxford colleges, Grace is said before the meal, sometimes in Latin. Also, being late for these formal three-course meals is a big no-no.

Oxford students swear not to light fires in the library

The Bodleian Libraries at Oxford is the largest university library system in the UK and include one of the oldest libraries in Europe. The fascinating fact about them is that all students are required to swear an oath against lighting fires or bringing fire inside. It's called Thomas Bodley’s oath, which reads, "I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library." The oath has been translated into more than 100 different languages.

Walking on the grass is for professors, not students

Oxford is famous for its luscious, photogenic quad lawns, and they're that beautifully pristine for a reason: students aren't allowed to step on the grass. This sacred right has to be deserved: according to the rules, only Oxford professors can wander on the grass however and whenever they like.


Pennying is a 600-year-old drinking game (yes, you heard that right, it was invented in Oxford in the 14th century) the idea of which is as follows: at dinner, you need to slip a penny into someone else’s drink without them noticing. If you succeed, the person that has been ‘pennied’ must chug down the entire drink they are holding, and then continue with the game.

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